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Neonatal incubator or artificial womb? Distinguishing ectogestation and ectogenesis using the metaphysics of pregnancy

Neonatal incubator or artificial womb? Distinguishing ectogestation and ectogenesis using the metaphysics of pregnancy
Neonatal incubator or artificial womb? Distinguishing ectogestation and ectogenesis using the metaphysics of pregnancy

A 2017 Nature report was widely touted as hailing the arrival of the artificial womb. But the scientists involved claim their technology is merely an improvement in neonatal care. This raises an under-considered question: what differentiates neonatal incubation from artificial womb technology? Considering the nature of gestation—or metaphysics of pregnancy—(a) identifies more profound differences between fetuses and neonates/babies than their location (in or outside the maternal body) alone: fetuses and neonates have different physiological and physical characteristics; (b) characterizes birth as a physiological, mereological and topological transformation as well as a (morally relevant) change of location; and (c) delivers a clear distinction between neonatal incubation and ectogestation: the former supports neonatal physiology; the latter preserves fetal physiology. This allows a detailed conceptual classification of ectogenetive and ectogestative technologies according to which the 2017 system is not just improved neonatal incubation, but genuine ectogestation. But it is not an artificial womb, which is a term that is better put to rest. The analysis reveals that any ethical discussion involving ectogestation must always involve considerations of possible risks to the mother as well as her autonomy and rights. It also adds a third and potentially important dimension to debates in reproductive ethics: the physiological transition from fetus/gestateling to baby/neonate.

artificial womb, ectogenesis, ectogestation, ethics, fetus, gestateling, metaphysics, pregnancy
0269-9702
354-363
Kingma, Elselijn
24f1e065-3004-452c-868d-9aee3087bf63
Finn, Suki
d74d44c0-38f4-4cc7-8807-92ca56c88783
Kingma, Elselijn
24f1e065-3004-452c-868d-9aee3087bf63
Finn, Suki
d74d44c0-38f4-4cc7-8807-92ca56c88783

Kingma, Elselijn and Finn, Suki (2020) Neonatal incubator or artificial womb? Distinguishing ectogestation and ectogenesis using the metaphysics of pregnancy. Bioethics, 34 (4), 354-363. (doi:10.1111/bioe.12717).

Record type: Article

Abstract

A 2017 Nature report was widely touted as hailing the arrival of the artificial womb. But the scientists involved claim their technology is merely an improvement in neonatal care. This raises an under-considered question: what differentiates neonatal incubation from artificial womb technology? Considering the nature of gestation—or metaphysics of pregnancy—(a) identifies more profound differences between fetuses and neonates/babies than their location (in or outside the maternal body) alone: fetuses and neonates have different physiological and physical characteristics; (b) characterizes birth as a physiological, mereological and topological transformation as well as a (morally relevant) change of location; and (c) delivers a clear distinction between neonatal incubation and ectogestation: the former supports neonatal physiology; the latter preserves fetal physiology. This allows a detailed conceptual classification of ectogenetive and ectogestative technologies according to which the 2017 system is not just improved neonatal incubation, but genuine ectogestation. But it is not an artificial womb, which is a term that is better put to rest. The analysis reveals that any ethical discussion involving ectogestation must always involve considerations of possible risks to the mother as well as her autonomy and rights. It also adds a third and potentially important dimension to debates in reproductive ethics: the physiological transition from fetus/gestateling to baby/neonate.

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Accepted/In Press date: 8 November 2019
e-pub ahead of print date: 5 April 2020
Published date: 1 May 2020
Additional Information: Funding Information: Special thanks go to Sasha Isaac, Joona Räsänen, Barbara Katz‐Rothman, and members of the ‘BetterUnderstanding the Metaphysics of Pregnancy’ (BUMP) research group – Alexander Geddes, Jonathan Grose, Anne Sophie Meincke, Teresa Baron & Ziggy Schilpzand at the University of Southampton, for their ideas and very helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper. This paper was written both within the research project: Philosophy of Birth: Rethinking the Origin from Medical Humanities (PHILBIRTH), University of Alcalá, Program for Research, Development and Innovation Oriented to Societal Challenges, Ministry of Economy in Spain, AEI/FEDER/UE, 2016‐19 (FFI2016‐77755‐R), and as part of Better Understanding the Metaphysics of Pregnancy (BUMP), which is funded by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 679586). Publisher Copyright: © 2020 The Authors. Bioethics published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Keywords: artificial womb, ectogenesis, ectogestation, ethics, fetus, gestateling, metaphysics, pregnancy

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 439091
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/439091
ISSN: 0269-9702
PURE UUID: 1e320443-0dcf-4bc9-a3cb-1ae20125abcf

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Date deposited: 03 Apr 2020 16:30
Last modified: 29 Jul 2022 04:01

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Author: Elselijn Kingma
Author: Suki Finn

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